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There is a small Muslim community in El Salvador, largely consisting of Salvadoran nationals and converts. However, the majority of the Arab population in the country are Christian mainly Lebanese and Palestinian. There is a small mosque in San Salvador, Mezquita de la Luz (Mosque of Light), run by Centro Islámico Árabe Salvadoreño.

There is also an Islamic Library operated by the Shi'ite community, named Fatimah Az-Zahra. They published the first Islamic magazine in Central America: Revista Biblioteca Islámica. Additionally, they are credited with providing the first and only Islamic library dedicated to spreading Islamic culture in the country.[1]



Currently, there have yet to be any precise and conclusive historical studies on the arrival of the first Muslims to the country. Despite this, some investigators have attempted to highlight some events that they use to try approximating this phenomenon. According to an academic work authored by Pedro Escalante and Abraham Daura entitled Sobre Moros y Cristianos, y otros Arabismos en El Salvador, the first appearance of Muslims occurred during the country’s period as a Spanish colony. It is written in the aforesaid work that in the year 1619 a man named Pedro Soriano was judged by a court of Santa Inquisición: “To say that she did not defend the faith in Jesus Christ, for being own hers the one of Moors”.[2] Despite this data, the authors clarify that “there is nothing related to true Muslims” but to situations related to bigamy.[3]

However, El Salvador did not completely escape the remarkable influence of Islamic Culture (largely brought from Al-Andalus or Islamic Spain), which is continually reflected in local architecture, gastronomy, language and customs. For example, proof of this is the still existing rest of the church of Caluco in Sonsonate, considered a clear testament of Mudéjar or Moorish architecture in the country: additionally, the Iglesia del Pilar in San Vicente still conserves visible legacies of this heritage.


20th Century Immigration

The arrival of families emigrating from Arabic countries (Syria, Lebanon and Palestine) primarily occurred during the early 20th century. Though few in number, their descendants have attained great economic and political power in the country, as evidenced by President Antonio Saca — whose opponent in the 2004 election, Schafik Handal, was likewise of Palestinian descent — and the flourishing commercial, industrial, and construction firms owned by them.[4] However, the majority of these Middle Eastern immigrants were Christian - of the few Muslim families, little or nothing has been documented. A unique observation that should be mentioned is that it appears that these Muslim families made little effort towards spreading the Islamic religion in the country. Significant academic investigation in this field is still required to provide information concerning the history of El Salvador and the arrival of the first Muslims.

Establishment of the First Islamic Centers in El Salvador

In 1994, the first center of Sunni Islamic worship was inaugurated in El Salvador, named Centro Islámico Árabe Salvadoreño, founded in the capital city of San Salvador by a group of Salvadorian nationals and individuals of Palestinian ancestry. One decade later (2004) a second mosque was inaugurated in the capital: however, unlike the first center, this group consisted of adherents to the Shia branch of Islam. They named their Islamic Center Fátimah Az-Zahra, in honor of Fatimah, the daughter of the Islamic prophet Muhammad from his first wife Khadija.[5] They began diffusing Islamic literature through the Internet, inaugurating the country’s first Islamic Website that includes the publication of a quarterly magazine and that currently counts more than 100 digitized Islamic books.[6] In 2007, a third masjid called the Mezquita Dar-Ibrahim, was inaugurated in San Salvador.

Islamic Center Activities

The Islamic Centers are generally involved in performing the Friday congregational prayers known as Salaat-al-Jummah, distributing literature, charitable activities, online propagation and donating informative materials on Islam to various religious and cultural institutions throughout the country. For example, the Fátimah Az-Zahra Islamic Center provides introductory classes on Islamic doctrine and history. These classes, which are open to the general public, are not solely religious in nature: courses in foreign languages and efforts to improve adult literacy are also offered.[7]


  1. ^ El Sitio de Los Musulmanes Shiítas de El Salvador
  2. ^ Pedro Escalante y Abraham Daura Molina (2001), Sobre Moros y Cristianos, y otros Arabismos en El Salvador. Embajada de España en El Salvador y Agencia Española de Cooperación Internacional, San Salvador, pp. 17
  3. ^ Ibid pp.54-55
  4. ^ Marín-Guzmán, Roberto (2000). A Century of Palestinian Immigration into Central America: A study of their economic and cultural contributions. San Jose, CR: Universidad de Costa Rica.  
  5. ^ Armstrong, Karen (1993). Muhammad: A Biography of the Prophet. San Francisco: Harper. ISBN 0-06-250886-5.
  6. ^
  7. ^ Revista Comunica de la UCA


External links

See also


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